By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor
The NBA’s return plan has been voted on and approved as of Thursday afternoon. Disney World will host 22 of the league’s 30 teams for eight regular-season games to determine which 16 teams will head on to the playoffs. Games will begin on July 31st.
Although only nine teams from the Eastern Conference will be making the trip to Disney, the standings are far from set in stone. There is still room for multiple teams to change their playoff fate in these final eight games, one of them being the Sixers.
Currently, the Sixers find themselves tied for fifth place in the conference with the Indiana Pacers, but sit just four games out of the third seed currently held by the Boston Celtics. The Sixers have a real chance to move up in the standings as they have a rather favorable final stretch.
Five of their final games will be against teams with a sub .500 record. Realistically the Sixers have a chance to go 6-2 in this stretch heading into the playoffs.
There is one not so glamorous stat for the Sixers heading into this regular-season finale. In the 13 games against the seven opponents the Sixers have left this year they posted a 4-9 record. That being said with three months off you can say that these games are a clean slate for every returning team.
The team is going to have to be ready to hit the ground running because game one is arguably the most important game of this sprint to the playoffs. They kick off the return against the Indiana Pacers, and the winner will get sole possession of fifth place in the standings.
Other than the Pacers, the only other teams over .500 the Sixers will face are the Raptors and the Rockets. A win over the Raptors wouldn’t mean much in terms of moving up in the standings, but getting a win over the defending champs this close to the playoffs could be a real confidence boost. Without Capela to anchor their defense Joel Embiid should dominate the new small-ball Rockets leading to what should be an easy win.
The biggest goal for the Sixers needs to be not letting teams that don’t want to win beat them. Before the suspension of the season, the Sixers had some bad losses against teams that have been competing for ping pong balls, that can’t be the case now.
This means taking care of the Wizards twice, the Magic, and you could throw the Suns in this mix as well. These teams are not anywhere close to winning a championship, and the Sixers can’t let them pick up wins and ruin their chance of moving up in the standings.
Getting the two biggest obstacles out of the way can be big for the Sixers. With every team starting from scratch again after three months off, momentum will be crucial. Getting hot at the right time is a key part of making a run at a championship. With the way this makeshift schedule was made, the Sixers have a great opportunity to build momentum to head into this playoffs.